|By AL J. Vermette
He has become a part of Halloween pop-culture for the last 26 years since this character made his
only film debut in the movie The Nightmare Before Christmas in 1993. Although only starring in one
feature film, this iconic character still planted his mark on the Halloween landscape as he is very much
today thought of in the same vein as pumpkins, ghosts, and witches when it comes to Halloween imagery.
He is Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town, and by the very moment you see him, you
know this iconic figure dressed in his black pin-striped suit and bat like bow tie. He has a ghost dog
named Zero and a rag doll girlfriend named Sally as he leads his town in the celebration of Halloween.
In the movie, Jack is sort of the governor of his realm....the Halloween realm where it’s Halloween
every day year round (gee, I wish I lived there!) and he longs for something new. Upon looking, he
discovers a new realm where it’s Christmas all the time and pays a visit. After a misunderstanding and
kidnapping Santa Claus, Jack brings Christmas back to Halloween Town.
Jack and his world was created by movie director Tim Burton, who when working as a Disney
animator in 1982, wrote a poem that would become The Nightmare Before Christmas. At first, he thought
of turning the poem into a short film and then maybe a 30 minute holiday special. It was then after his
success with Beetlejuice and Batman that Burton returned to the project, and in 1990, pitched it to Disney.
They liked the idea but wanted to produce it through their affiliate film company Touchstone Pictures
because of the film’s darker tone. Jack and friends were born and the film The Nightmare Before
Christmas made $75 million at the box office.
Jack and company were brought to life by stop motion animation where a still puppet is moved one
inch per-frame giving the illusion of movement when shown in real time. He was voiced by actor Chris
Sarandon, who is better known as the vampire next door in the horror movie Fright Night, for all of Jacks
speaking lines. For Jack’s singing, that was done by the film’s composer Danny Elfman, who has done
everything from the score for Batman to Desperate Housewives and everything in between. Although The
Nightmare Before Christmas was not an official release from Disney but rather their off-shoot of
Touchstone, nonetheless Jack Skellington has become one of Disney's biggest characters. He stands
among all of Disney's line of characters and even has a live representation at the theme parks where
guests can see him in person just like Mickey, Minnie, Chip & Dale and other costumed characters
walking the parks.
At Halloween when the Disney parks all celebrate the holiday, it is Jack Skellington, who much like his
movie counterpart, is the master of ceremonies to usher in the spooky goings on in each of the theme
parks. Jack is the host of the Halloween Screams fireworks show and leads the Frightfully Fun Parade
with Jack’s original voice actor of Chris Sarandon returning to voice the character. Jack and the cast from
The Nightmare Before Christmas also appear in a live stage production at the Disney parks as well where
he sings and dances.
In 2008, a group of young actors from the Beverly Hills Playhouse produced their own stage
production of The Nightmare Before Christmas and videoed it for $900. The production was made by
actor Matthew Patrick Davis, who at 6 foot 8 and very thin, played Jack who in the video sings the song
Jack's Lament from the movie. The video went viral on You Tube and Facebook and despite it not being
authorized by the heads of Disney, was not pulled from the video resource. The class project all started
when Davis started singing one of the movie’s songs in his workshop and everyone loved it and it became
a pet project for them to stage it and film it to share with the world.
Since the 26 years that have passed since the release of the movie, Jack has been represented in a
line of toys, action figures and stuffed dolls. A 9 foot like size Jack Skellington was built and sold through
Spirit Halloween retail stores in 2016, plus in 2018, he and his girl Sally were staged at each of the Spirit
Halloween stores as life sized mannequins. His image has lasted the test of time for a character that only
was featured in one movie. But that one film made him a Halloween legend!